5 Campus Critters Hiding in Plain Sight

A bronze sculpture of fish shooting a stream of water from its mouth.

You’d expect a campus of IU Bloomington’s size to have ample creature comforts. But actual creatures? It has plenty of those too—and we’re not just talking about squirrels. Take a gander at some of IUB’s most beloved structures and you’ll discover an assortment of critters making themselves at home. They’re a quirk of campus tradition that’s quite literally carved in stone (and sometimes bronze). Here are five of our favorites.

Fish at Showalter Fountain

Perhaps the most iconic critters on IU Bloomington’s campus are the bronze fish that encircle the goddess Venus statue in Showalter Fountain. As the centerpiece of the Fine Arts Plaza, the water feature immediately made a splash with the IU community upon its dedication in 1961. Over the years, the fish may have become a bit too popular as they’ve become targets for theft, once in 1987 after the men’s basketball team won the national championship and again in 2010.

Owl at the Indiana Memorial Union

A limestone sculpture of an owl sitting on the peak of a roof.

IU Bloomington has owls aplenty. One of the most conspicuous sits perched above the south central entrance of the Indiana Memorial Union. But look closely and you can spot a total of 12 owl sculptures across campus. It must be true what they say about birds of a feather!

Fruit fly at Simon Hall

A limestone sculpture of a fly.
Photo by James Brosher, IU Studios

Simon Hall is adorned with symbols of the natural sciences studied within its walls. One of these limestone embellishments is the fruit fly sculpture located on the building’s east side. The fly is bookended by yet another critter—or more accurately, the critter’s fundamental building blocks: The DNA sequence of a mouse is carved in relief around the building. You can see a portion of the rodent’s genetic code in the photo above.

Bat at Maxwell Hall

A limestone sculpture of a bat clutching an IU crest.
Photo by James Brosher, IU Studios

Often mistaken for a gargoyle, Maxwell Hall’s crest-clutching keeper is actually a bat—or more specifically, a grotesque! What’s the distinction? Technically, gargoyle sculptures must contain a spout or otherwise help the drainage of rainwater. The Maxwell Hall sculpture is purely ornamental. Call it what you will, this critter is uniquely IU.

Duck at Goodbody Hall

A limestone sculpture of a duck wearing glasses and a mortarboard.
Photo by James Brosher, IU Studios

Certainly one of the most unique sculptures on campus is the Goodbody duck. The bespectacled bird dons a mortarboard and vest, carries a book beneath its wing, and bears the initials AWS for “Association of Women Students,” as Goodbody Hall was originally a women’s residence hall.

This article was originally published in the fall 2020 issue of Imagine magazine.

Written By
A. Price
A resident of the Hoosier state since grade school, Alex forged a friendship with “tried and true” IU upon becoming a writer at the IU Foundation.